Understanding News Avoidance: Perceptions about Audiences for News and Why they Matter

Benjamin Toff (Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota) will visit UT Austin and the Center for Media Engagement on April 5th to discuss his research on news audience perceptions. Join us in BMC 5.102 at 12:00 pm!


The Center for Media Engagement Speaker Series promotes discussion about critical issues in journalism, social technology, and other communication media. We feature renowned scholars, experts, and professionals to share their research and perspectives on these topics.

One of the most consistent themes in communication research is the assumption that journalism’s main democratic function is to transmit information so people can make informed political decisions and hold power to account. But a considerable share of the public say they rarely or never follow the news, limiting participation in civic life. This presentation will provide an overview of research on this phenomenon of “news avoidance,” summarizing findings from an ongoing project involving in-depth interviews with news avoiders in the UK, Spain, and, in its next phase, the US as well. Much of the presentation will focus on a particular theory flowing from this research: an identity-based model of news use and avoidance. Whereas most scholarship presumes that people derive a combination of informational and “ritual” benefits from consuming news, we argue much is contingent upon how individuals view themselves and the communities they belong to. That is, news habits are particularly shaped by social identity and social relations: perceptions concerning the status of people who consume news and exposure to conversations about news. For news avoiders, high costs of consuming news in terms of time or emotional resources are not offset by perceived benefits because the value of political information is contingent on whether people feel they belong to groups where knowledge of such information is deemed valuable as social currency. So long as such dynamics shape whether people develop news consumption habits, efforts to increase news use among the broader public by focusing merely on the content of news may have a limited impact.

Friday, April 5, 2019 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Belo Center for New Media (BMC), 5.102
300 DEAN KEETON ST W, Austin, Texas 78712

Event Type



Moody College of Communication

Target Audience

Students, Staff, Faculty, Alumni, General Public


Free Event


#Media, Communication, Journalism, Information, News, Engagement, Democracy, Involvement

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